Roadworks? What roadworks?

Dominic Browne

Working to an agile and rapid delivery model, a team of clients, contractors and a service provider have developed a way of taking the stress out of local roadworks for drivers and workers alike. Dominic Browne finds out how the solution was just passing them by.

In Essex and Hertfordshire, contractors Ringway Jacobs, Ringway and software platform provider Elgin have developed a strategy using real-time information sent straight to Sat Navs to ensure drivers are automatically routed around roadworks.

The system helps traffic flow and journey time reliability from the outset by diverting the driver but also removes the conflict point between driver and worker at works sites.

Highways has previously reported on the appalling level of abuse workers receive, often at roadworks, and Highways Term Maintenance Association’s campaign to tackle this. Will Young, innovation and efficiency manager for Essex Highways, who works on co-ordinating the relationship between Ringway Jacobs, Essex Highways and Elgin, is hopeful it will help reduce tension, adding that the scheme in general has helped the team focus to an even greater extent on the driving public and the impact their work has on people’s lives.


The system

Ringway and Ringway Jacobs were already moving to a paperless system, with teams on the ground armed with tablets to carry out risk assessments. Road closures and diversions are also digitally mapped. To take this to the next level, they teamed up with Elgin, which has an existing relationship with Google and TomTom. Elgin’s website, which as many readers will know is a subscription-based service where highway authorities can pay an annual fee to have all their roadworks data published, acting as a repository of highway authorities’ street and road works regulatory information and mandatory publishing requirements.

The platform has an API for communicating road closures to Sat Navs in general but this new system goes over and above that with a real-time feed providing live authoritative data. Google and TomTom are currently using the real-time data and Elgin is in discussions with other service providers.

One prompt for the system was the move by Essex and Hertfordshire to a permit system for roadworks in the last few years, which led to ‘a far higher level’ of quality information. However as Ringway’s Daniel Anderton, who manages the Hertfordshire Transport Control Centre, explains: ‘The permit information is static. It’s planned information. The timescales that regulate that process have a built-in up to 24 hours lag – in some cases potentially a number of days lag before we have to tell people we are starting a road closure.

‘This solution allows us to push a button and then information gets pushed out to people, whereas previously the Sat Nav had the information but had no real confirmation it was actually happening.’

Using cloud-based software, Elgin set up the app for Essex and Herts teams, on the ground or in the office, to select a road closure and potential diversion then ‘syndicate’ it live to Google and TomTom in real-time.

Mr Anderton says: ‘If you talk to anyone not involved in our industry they expect this. The common misconception is that Sat Navs already get road closure information anyway. Crucially, when you talk to Sat Nav companies they don’t trust half the information they get because they know it is not real-time. They rely on Waze and other crowdsourced information.

‘No one else in the UK has a trusted relationship to feed information to Google and TomTom. This way we don’t get associated with unnecessary delays. The Sat Nav takes people around them. We should be encouraging everyone to make this available because there is a fundamental need.

‘Sat Nav companies said find us someone who can give us real-time information when roads are closed and we will bite your hand off, and they also gave us a nudge to scale up across Essex and Herts.’

Elgin conducted research and says there is a widespread demand for authoritative, real-time information on road closures.

Once a scheme promoter has put in the closure and agreed what the diversion is, the tool allows Essex and Herts to plot and publish the shortest, most appropriate route around the closure. The highways teams would promote a route ‘that is equivalent to what we are shutting’ – for example A roads in place of A roads.

Rachael Walsh, national account manager for Elgin, says: ‘We are looking to move into the arena of influencing driver behaviour by passing the highway authority’s official diversion routes to Sat Nav companies but for the time being each Sat Nav will determine its own detour irrespective of the authority’s preference.’

The road ahead

The team began testing the system in late 2017 and went live in March 2018. The externalities and added value should be extensive considering all the time potentially saved. The team is currently working on ‘putting some pounds and pence to the savings’.

‘We are working on some formulas that the likes of Highways England will use to come up with that cash saving of congestion per vehicle per minute. That’s a work in progress,’ says Mr Anderton.

It also allows better monitoring of the impact of works. The Elgin app harvests all the permitting information that Essex and Herts have and correlates that with live Tom Tom traffic data to show severe and unusual congestion related to the roadworks.

The data from TomTom gives a comparison of current speed with average speed for the time of day based on a traffic profile for the last two years.

‘That’s the beauty of the live TomTom traffic data in the app itself,’ says Ms Walsh. Mr Anderton says: ‘This has certainly allowed us to scrutinize the information we exchange and given us an appreciation of the impact we cause. We are learning from closing the same roads and capturing information that tells us last time we shut this we had problems at junction X. You don’t often get the chance to learn from something. Now we can put in interventions to alleviate the other problems. Did the diversion cause an impact? Do you have to amend traffic signal timings to get easier flow around the diversion?

‘It tells you within minutes what the delay is. The interesting thing is you put a closure on and you start to see traffic over somewhere you didn’t expect. People know other routes and you get a much better picture of what is happening on the network.’

Currently the highway authorities are only using it for their works but utilities can also use it. Herts and Essex are looking at a utilities trial in due course but 90% of roads closures are done by the highway authority or its contractors. Between them Herts and Essex probably rack up about 5,000 closures a year.

Mr Young adds that new forms of analytics and modelling could be in the works and looks ahead eagerly to a time when this could be a key component of autonomous car data. However, the team wants to celebrate their first achievements first; a simple but sophisticated solution, developed at speed with numerous partners, with a clear customer and societal benefit.

From a corporate point of view, this project demonstrates a desire to have more than just a traditonal contractor role and instead be a service provider capable of identifying issues and finding solutions. In today’s market that is a major advantage, much like being able to spot congestion and avoid it really.

Latest Issue

latest magazine issue

Also Inside:

  • Traffex Parkex review
  • Round table: Mastering modern contracting
View the latest issue

Highways jobs

Road Worker

Band 6 £20,043 - £22,129 pa
Bradford Metropolitan District Council is looking for two Road Workers to join the Highway Delivery Unit. Bradford, West Yorkshire
Recruiter: City of Bradford MDC

Assistant Engineer / Engineer

£24,920 - £34,373 pa
This is an opportunity to join the highway maintenance team Bradford, West Yorkshire
Recruiter: City of Bradford MDC

Technician - Maintenance Programmes (3 Posts)

£23,657 - £25,568 per annum - Plus market leading package (see below)
This is an exciting time to join our in-house Highways Service Hybrid
Recruiter: Derbyshire County Council

Assistant Highways Officer

£21,269 - £23,953
Lincolnshire County Council is looking to recruit an Assistant Highways Officer Lincoln, Lincolnshire
Recruiter: Lincolnshire County Council

Highways Officer

£26,466 - £29,174
Lincolnshire County Council is looking to appoint a Highways Lincolnshire
Recruiter: Lincolnshire County Council

Carbon Reduction Manager

£42,614 - £45,648 (pro-rata)
Are you driven to tackle climate change though decarbonisation? Newport (Casnewydd)
Recruiter: Newport City Council

Senior Engineer

We are looking to recruit a Senior Engineer within the Structures team. Pontypridd, Rhondda Cynon Taf
Recruiter: Rhondda Cynon Taff County Borough Council

Transportation Planner

£35,336 - £39,571
A Transportation Planner is required for the analysis and monitoring of traffic, to design and undertake feasibility studies. Pembroke, Pembrokeshire (Sir Benfro)
Recruiter: Pembrokeshire County Council

Highways Service Manager (Commissioning & Contract Management)

£52,848 - £64,998
We are now looking to recruit a number of talented, motivated and innovative individuals. Northampton, Northamptonshire
Recruiter: West Northamptonshire Council

Highways Network Manager

£52,848 - £64,998
We are forming a new highways and transport team for West Northamptonshire Council Northampton, Northamptonshire
Recruiter: West Northamptonshire Council

Assistant Engineer

£27,514 to £29,174 per annum
A great opportunity has arisen for an enthusiastic and self-motivated individual to join our team Preston, Lancashire
Recruiter: Preston City Council

Highways Transport Strategy and Development Manager

£52,848 - £64,998
This is a unique opportunity to join a newly formed unitary authority which is mobilising a new highways contract. Northampton, Northamptonshire
Recruiter: West Northamptonshire Council

Principal Officer (Network Coordination)

£39,571 - £42,614
We are looking for experienced and well-motivated staff to help shape the future delivery of the service. Oxford, Oxfordshire
Recruiter: Oxfordshire County Council

Senior Highways Officer

£36,371 per annum plus £2,000 Market Forces
Hertfordshire truly is the County of Opportunity Hertford, Hertfordshire
Recruiter: Hertfordshire County Council

Highways Development Manager

£44,624 per annum plus £3,000 Market Forces
We are actively recruiting for Highways Development Managers within the Environment & Transport Department Hertford, Hertfordshire
Recruiter: Hertfordshire County Council

Roadworker Ganger (Civils)

£21,989 to £24,447
City of York Council are looking for a number of Roadworker Gangers to join its Highways Capital Projects Team. York, North Yorkshire
Recruiter: City of York Council

Highways Inspector.

£25,419 - £28,226
You will be responsible for the planning and carrying out statutory highway inspection. Northumberland
Recruiter: Northumberland County Council

Highways Operative - Barrow x4

£22,571 – £23,484
We are looking to recruit a new Highways Operative to our Highways Service. Cumbria
Recruiter: Cumbria County Council

Highway Asset Principal (Performance & Information)

We're eager to find a compelling and persuasive individual to take advantage of this brand-new opportunity within our Highways Asset Team. Lancashire
Recruiter: Lancashire County Council

Inspector / Senior Inspector

£22,129 - £32,798 pa
Bradford Metropolitan District Council is seeking to recruit an Inspector/Senior Inspector to join the friendly Highway Maintenance Team Bradford, West Yorkshire
Recruiter: City of Bradford MDC

Highways Presents


Highways on Fridays

Register now!

Latest Video